children are like dogs. part II

In my last post about how children are like dogs, I described the two kids I nanny for and how they strongly resemble a couple of my favorite neighborhood dogs, Huckleberry and Maybe. Yesterday while I was walking the dogs again, I made another connection between the furry four-legged mammals and us bilateral human beings.

When my younger brother was growing up, he hated to eat tomatoes. In fact, he stayed at the table and wouldn’t leave long past when dinner was over because he refused to eat his tomatoes. Now, these were not MY parenting tactics. Trust me, there’s a lot of things my mom did that I will never do with my kids. And one of them is getting in between my children and their relationship with food. Read more on this in Alyson Schafer’s parenting book Ain’t Misbehavin’ (book review here).

The fact is, kids say they “don’t like” foods all of the time. One of the kids I nanny for finds a new vegetable to say is his least favorite every day. I’m pretty sure we’ve only got a couple vegetables left for him to scold. A good way to look at your kid’s actions (or your dog’s!) are that they are a way of meeting a basic need. H makes up new vegetables that he doesn’t like as a way of creating conversation. He believes his inflexibility will hurt my ability to prepare him foods and meet his mother’s demands of making sure he eats his veggies. Perhaps he believes that not eating veggies will result in more attention from me or mom. Just a theory.

Another example is that my younger brother hates tomatoes. He used to sit at the table while our mother told him over and over that he can’t leave til he eats them. He had mom’s attention. He had our attention too. Everyone at the table was on the eat-your-tomatoes-brigade. He was on center stage and eating up the attention. He learned that not eating tomatoes = getting attention from mom and everyone else. Who cares if it wasn’t positive attention. This kid was seeking attention and he’s got it. Now he’s a theater major. Ha

Now back to Maybe the dog. Maybe refuses to budge. She hates walking. Should I really force her to come on long walks with Huck? Another dog down the street is notorious for short walks. His name is Fred. He’s also known by many to be the mayor of the island. Perhaps Maybe can go to Fred’s house while I walk Huck.

Same thing with kids and eating their vegetables. Moral of the story: we gotta sharpen our listening skills. What are people really communicating when they won’t eat a certain food or won’t come on a walk? Children and dogs alike are stating something important to them. Maybe’s message is more straightforward: I am lazy and do not want to walk. Kids messages have more depth. Usually, it’s not the tomatoes that they don’t like. What do your children crave and why?

Every sin is a false attempt at meeting a basic need. – Neil Anderson



A must-read parenting book: Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Alyson Schafer (Review)

Last night I had a dream that I baked some sweet potato fries and some tempeh and presented it to my younger sister for dinner. Upon laying the dish in front of her, she wrinkled her nose and said “I don’t like sweet potato or whatever that is”. Now the reason I dreamt this was because it actually happened yesterday! But not with my sister. With the kids I nanny. And just with sweet potato fries. Who actually doesn’t like sweet potato fries? Most likely… nobody.

As nannies, babysitters and parents, we’ve all experienced what a complete bust it is when our kids tell us they “don’t like” what they’re being served. The proper response to this behavior, according to psychologist and parenting expert Alyson Schafer, is replying to our children “I’m sorry you don’t like what’s for dinner tonight. Hopefully there’s enough other stuff to fill you up”. She says getting angry, upset or taking our kids’ words personally is only fuelling the futuristic fire of our kids turning up their noses.

Schafer gives advice on child’s eating habits and SO many other topics in her book Ain’t Misbehavin’ regarding picky eaters, bed-wetters, temper tantrums, sibling rivalry, and child capability among others. One of my favorite quotes from the book is: “Never do for a child what a child can do for herself”.


One of Schafer’s main messages in this book is viewing one’s role as a parent from the eyes of an encourager. By encouraging our kids to do their own personal best, figure things out on their own, learn teamwork among siblings and in the household as a hold, we set a foundation for independent, capable children without to resorting to mindless obedience and helplessness.

We don’t give children enough credit for their true capabilities when it comes to helping around the house, getting up on time, fulfilling their roles in the family and being their awesome, creative selves. Too much time is spent nagging the to stop bothering their brother, to clean their room or brush their teeth, or simply taking the tasks upon ourselves to do the work that they’re capable of doing themselves.

Alyson gives some truly fantastic parenting tips that will forever change your relationship between your children and your family. Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Alyson Schafer. Give it a read!